Artificial Intelligence: Its effect on the workforce now and in the future

Woman operating digital screen

The future of the enterprise in the digital age is more perplexing today than it has ever been! Take for example the hype around Artificial Intelligence (AI) – are we now on a path to building machines that will ultimately make humanity obsolete?! Scary prospect indeed but many would argue that the rise of the machines is still just science fiction. Although not wanting to be pessimistic about the future of technology, as a technologist, I do feel compelled to quote Isaac Asimov…

“Today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science fact”!

I am not however saying that the future of AI is destined for the destruction of mankind, for the future of AI and other emerging tech is surely within our control; after all, we humans are still the ones ideating, creating and regulating the use of tech – aren’t we?!

Recently in QUT Links Magazine, Tomer Garzberg, a thought leader in AI, addresses some topical AI questions including “What’s the biggest AI myth?”, “Where do you think AI is headed in the future?”, “How will AI affect the future of work?” and “How will AI affect society in the future?”. Take a moment or two to read this brief article and perhaps contemplate your own views about the future of mankind, oops, I mean the future of AI.

Tomer Garzberg is the founder and CEO of GRONADE – and a self-proclaimed ‘todayist’. He completed a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) at QUT in 2004, and has since established himself as a thought leader in artificial intelligence (AI), and its impact on the future of work.

In 2017, Tomer delivered a TED talk: What happens when we take humans out of work?

Tomer Garzberg, QUT alumni

He argues that AI will take our jobs – and why that’s a good thing, freeing us to imagine new roles for ourselves. He has also surveyed those endeavours that will likely remain human for some time to come.

His unique ability to take the potential of technology and data, and imagine commercial outcomes through machine intelligence and data-driven experimentation, has enabled him to work with companies including Salesforce, American Express, Standard Chartered, IBM, GE, Westpac, Qantas, PwC, Pepsico, News Corp, and BHP.

Following a recent question and answer session in Canberra with senior leaders from the Departments of Defence and Human Services, Tomer delves into the future of machine learning, the biggest ‘AI myth’, and the most essential human skill for an AI-driven world.

When did you first develop an interest in AI?

I started a data-driven marketing company and over time we were attracting more and more corporate customers, so the old ways of using basic analytics just wasn’t cutting it.

We had to evolve to start dealing with giant data sets and introduced machine learning and process automation. This evolved to become a full-scale AI offering, and we now work with some of the world’s largest companies to optimise their core operations and increase workplace efficiencies by reducing the ‘boring’ tasks and making jobs more fulfilling.

What’s your favourite part about working in AI?

You see a lot of ways you can help humankind.

One strategically-built algorithm has the capacity to improve the lives of everyone on this planet, and the opportunities are almost infinite. There’s never been a time in history to make such a tremendous impact from a bit of math and code.

I also really enjoy touring the world and speaking about the future of work on stage. I’ve been speaking for over a decade, and it’s by far the most rewarding experience.

Tomer Garzberg presenting.

What’s the biggest ‘AI myth’?

That AI is some kind of free-thinking sentient machine.

It really isn’t and we’re a long way away from that being a reality. The most mature category of AI is machine learning. Machine learning is designed to ‘be able to learn on its own’, but you have to remember that it’s still built by a human data scientist who needs to perform updates each time there’s new data or the requirements evolve. Skynet is science fiction (for now).

Where do you think AI is headed in the future?

While components of AI have been around for over a decade, they’ve really just started to mature.

Accessibility of data has improved, willingness to use data has increased, and computing costs have reduced. In saying this, we’re still in the infancy stages of AI as an industry. I expect we’ll see a dramatic uptake of AI in every single industry, and it will create a wave of change which will touch every human on this planet.

How will AI affect the future of work?

Dramatically, but not in the way most think it will create a jobless society. In fact, it’ll do quite the opposite.

Where a lot of repetitive jobs will be handed over to machines, AI will create a completely new industry with its own set of demands. This will include both low and high-skill jobs, from data cleaning to building complex algorithms to query this data.

And how will AI affect society in the future?

We’re already beginning to experience some changes – from Amazon knowing what you’re likely to buy, Netflix what you’re likely to watch, and Facebook serving ads you’re likely to click on.

Our out-of-work lives are already AI immersive, and now the world of work will catch up. This creates some unique challenges around data privacy and ethics (as we’ve seen with GDPR).

We hear about AI taking away jobs. Is that true?

Every industrial revolution has flushed inefficient jobs from the workforce.

It’s a natural cycle which occurs with every maturing piece of technology. What you see time and again is a flood of new jobs that aren’t anything like what we’re used to.

The World Economic Forum predicts 58 million new jobs will be created as a result of AI. While it may seem like these will be based around data or coding, we must remember that AI is still a machine. A workplace full of machines needs communicators to be able to translate and serve a world of humans, and we’re about to see a lot more focus on communication as one of the most essential human skills.

This article was originally published in Links, The Alumni Magazine.
Reproduced here with permission.


Professor Malcolm Thatcher was a Professor of Digital Practice in the QUT Graduate School of Business. Professor Thatcher is a career technologist and has held senior executive leadership positions in both the public-sector and the private-sector. Professor Thatcher has over 35 years’ experience in leading and delivering business value through technology-led innovation and transformation. In 2018, Professor Thatcher published a book on Digital Risk and Governance titled The Digital Governance Handbook for CEOs and Governing Boards, which regularly features in Amazon’s best seller list under Corporate Governance.

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